Last week I read a review in a major publishing magazine that really kinda bugged me. It reviewed a nonfiction work soon to come out, and though it had some good things to say about the book and author, I was extremely disappointed when it took a shot at the author’s writing ability.
Since when did that ever matter?
Now, rhetorically speaking, why would someone do this? Think about that for a moment. This was a nonfiction piece, not fiction. Not a memoir, nor an essay. And it definitely wasn’t literary fiction. It’s a book written by someone who obviously had a passion, an energy about a topic enough so that s/he wanted to share it. Within the review there was no mention made by the reviewer that the author had a professional background in writing, just that the author had a professional background in the topic, and had an obvious passion and knowledge about what s/he had written about—so why take the unnecessary potshot at this person’s writing ability?
Give this person—and those like him/her—a break.
Sure, you put yourself “out there,” you’re gonna take a hit or two by the public, but this professional reviewer should have known better, and for that matter, so should have the editor. It matters not one wit about “being professional,” with everyone in the media field priding themselves at being so “hard hitting,” “factual,” “take no prisoners” in their approach. Instead, it broaches that fine line between honoring reviewing and being overly and unnecessarily critical. Take issue with the book’s structure, its content, maybe even with a frigging singular word choice, but (to me) taking issues with a “non-writer’s” lack of writing ability—which of course may or may not get better with practice, but does nothing for the current moment in which the book is published—is like taking issue with a physical or mental deformity. Great, you professionally pointed it out, professionally rubbed their nose in it, now, what the hell do you expect the person to do about it at this point?
Let’s not forget our humanity for each other, people.